Archive forAugust, 2012

Asian cities to become top finance centres by 2022 – survey

LONDON Aug 27 (Reuters) – Top UK traders and dealmakers
bruised by intense banker bashing believe an Asian city will
take over as the worlds dominant financial centre within 10
years, according to a survey.

They also relegated London to third place from second as
their preferred location behind Singapore and New York, the poll
by headhunters Astbury Marsden found.

Nearly two thirds of 450 British investment bankers surveyed
said Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore would be the top global
finance centre in 10 years.

One fifth felt London would be the world leader in 2022 and
one sixth said New York would hold no.1 spot.

A fast growing, low tax and bank friendly environment like
Singapore stands as a perfect antidote to the comparatively high
tax and anti-banker sentiment of London and New York, said Mark
Cameron, operations chief at Astbury Marsden.

The annual Preferred Location Survey also found Singapore
is the city where British bankers would most like to live,
claiming 31 percent of the vote, up from 27 percent last year.

New York was second with a fifth of votes while London
slipped to third with 19 percent of the votes versus 22 percent
last year.

Financial centres in the West have taken a real battering
since the start of the financial crisis, said Cameron.

Cities like Singapore and Hong Kong have been quick to
capitalise on setbacks in London and New York, courting
investment banks and reacting to demand from expats, he added.

Investment banks and trading firms in New York and Europe
have struggled to maintain profitability in recent years amid
economic uncertainty partly linked to the ongoing euro zone debt
crisis.

Bankers and traders in the United States and Europe also
face the prospect of draconian restrictions on their riskier
practices, moves likely to impact future profitability.

Commodities trader Trafigura said in May that Singapore
would become its main trading centre as it seeks to tap demand
in Asia, dealing a blow to its former home Switzerland.

Asian banks, in contrast to their Western peers, avoided
much of the damage inflicted by the latest financial crisis and
have benefited in recent years from solid economic growth and a
booming commodities market across the Asia-Pacific region.

(Editing by David Cowell)

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Finance Minister – IMF Has Nothing to Do With Local Economic Policies

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has nothing to do with any economic policy carried out by the Egyptian government, said Minister of Finance Momtaz el-Saeed on Thursday 23/08/2012.

In press statements, Minister Saeed added that supporting the national economy by the IMF is very important as it gives Egypt a clean bill of health testifying that its economic reform is going well.

Several countries are waiting for such a testimony by the IMF so that they can start pumping more investments on the Egyptian market, he added.

Getting loans from the IMF is meant to push up investments and enhance the industry, the minister said, adding that such a state of affairs will help increase economic growth rates.

On the other hand, Minister Saeed stressed that Egypt received $500 million as part of a Qatari deposit, worth $2 billion.

Qatar has already deposited the money in the Central Bank of Egypt, said the minister. He added the ministry urged the CBE to convert the sum to pounds to be used in boosting resources of the public treasury.

The Minister hailed Qatars interest in speeding up the depositing of the remaining funds, which he said, are expected in September. This is not the first aid that is offered by Qatar to Egypt, according to Saeed.

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Trend tilts in favour of finance courses, with 50 making to the merit list

JAIPUR: Rajasthan is slowly gaining lead in churning out the largest number of finance professionals in the country. Figures released by the Institute of Companies Secretaries of India say that majority of the students who appeared for the company secretary exam, the results for which were announced on Saturday, were from Rajasthan.

Students from the state have fared quite well in the examinations. Fifty of them have made it to the league of top 100 in three different categories of CS – executive, foundation and professional. Leading the pack is Abhishek Gaggar of Bhilwara, who bagged first position in CS-Professional. Nidhi Jain stood third in foundation and Siddharth Jain ranked 9{+t}{+h} in executive.

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Personal Finance: Is a mortgage refinance right for you?

Theyre knocking on the lenders door. As mortgage rates have tumbled to all-time lows, demand for refinancing has fired up homeowners nationwide.

And its not just those drowning in underwater mortgages. With rates for 30-year mortgages hovering below 4 percent since last October, all kinds of homeowners are trying to get their monthly mortgages reduced, say lenders and mortgage experts.

Its huge. Its buried our staff and every other lender in town, said OJ Vallejo, mortgage consultant with First Priority Financial in Sacramento, who said his three-person staff has been working six days a week the last four months.

Nationally, refinance volume has been running at a three-year high in recent weeks, as mortgage rates remained extremely low, Mike Fratantoni, vice president of research for the Washington, DC-based National Mortgage Bankers Association, said in an email. With refinances, the No. 1 driver is interest rates.

Along with months of record-breaking low interest rates, other factors are driving the refinancing boom: a competitive lending market and changes in some federal refinancing programs for struggling homeowners.

Its prompted many established homeowners with old-school, high-interest mortgages to decide its time to refi.

Neil and Louise Mueller, longtime Land Park residents, were encouraged by their financial planner to look into refinancing their mortgage last spring.

It was almost too easy, said Louise, an American River College counselor, who said the process, including a home appraisal, took about three weeks.

The result: Their 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage dropped from 5.12 percent to 3.87 percent, which lowered their monthly payment by about $100. They also pulled out about $11,000 for savings and for a family cruise overseas with their two adult children.

Why refi?

Generally the primary reasons for refinancing a mortgage are to:

#x95; Lower monthly mortgage payments.

#x95; Eliminate the unpredictability of an adjustable-rate mortgage by switching to a fixed rate.

#x95; Free up home equity cash for home improvements, college costs or other expenses.

#x95; Shorten the loan term, say from a 30- to a 15-year mortgage, which can save thousands in interest payments.

Saving money is usually the biggest incentive.

Calling the low rates historic, John Winters, a wealth adviser with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Sacramento, said he recently advised all his clients to consider a refi. Especially for those finding it difficult to live with the anemic returns on low-interest CDs and bonds, freeing up monthly income by refinancing can make sense, he said.

Should you refi?

Its a personal calculation that varies. Generally, you look at how long you plan to be in your current home and whether the upfront costs outweigh the monthly savings.

If youre not going to be in your home another one or two years, youre not going to recoup the closing costs, said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com.

Everybodys situation is different, said mortgage consultant Vallejo. Theres no right or wrong answer. The only answer is what works for your family.

Some couples who refinance are looking ahead to retirement.

Paying off the mortgage is now back in vogue, Vallejo said, especially for those in their late 40s or 50s, who want to be mortgage-free at retirement age.

That doesnt necessarily mean theyll lower their monthly payment by refinancing. For example, a couple with a $250,000, 30-year loan at 5.25 percent three years ago would have been paying about $1,380 a month. If they refinanced their current balance to a 20-year, 3.5 percent loan today, their payments would increase slightly, to $1,405.

Their payment goes up $25, but they just took seven years off their mortgage, said Vallejo. Thats almost $116,000 in interest. Thats huge.

On the other hand, younger homeowners with kids might choose a 30-year mortgage when they refinance because they need the lower monthly cash flow to save for college or pay off debt. Or those with adjustable mortgages due to reset to higher rates may want to lock in single-digit rates.

What youll pay

The mortgage rate youll be offered depends on numerous factors, including: your credit score, loan amount, loan-to-value ratio (how much you owe compared to the homes appraised value), length of your loan term and type of home (rates on condos, rentals and vacation homes are typically higher.)

Lots of mortgage ads promise no-cost loans. According to some lenders, thats a misnomer.

It really means no cash out of pocket, said Vallejo. Theres no free lunch; somebody is paying for it.

Typically, in a no-cost loan, all closing costs and pre-paid items (such as appraisal fees and credit checks) are paid by the lender and built into the interest rate.

Shop around

It pays to compare quotes from several lenders because they offer different rates and fees. Start with your current lender or sit down with a local loan originator. You can also do refinance comparisons online, using mortgage calculators at sites like Bankrate.com or those of individual banks and lenders.

If youre a struggling homeowner, ask your lender about changes in the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program and FHA refinance programs that have made refinancing options more plentiful.

Bankrate.coms McBride said the refinance market is particularly compelling in California, where home prices have bottomed out and there are lots of competitive lenders.

But dont focus solely on interest rates, said McBride. When comparing refinance quotes, look at appraisal fees, title searches and closing costs. And be sure youre comparing the same loan terms, not a 15- and a 30-year, for instance.

Good standing

Be sure the lender is in good standing.

Tom Pool, spokesman for the state Department of Real Estate, said state and federal licensing standards for mortgage originators are much stricter than they used to be, which has weeded out most of the bad actors.

Nevertheless, you can check a companys or individuals licensing status at the state Department of Corporations (www.corp.ca.gov) or the Department of Real Estate (www.dre.ca.gov).

Pool also recommends online searches at sites like the Better Business Bureau (necal.bbb.org) to see if the lender has been linked to bad practices or scams.

Too late?

Even though interest rates have inched upward in the last month, youre probably not too late.

Its not worth losing any sleep over, said Bankrates McBride. Given the European debt crisis, (interest rates) cant rise appreciably.

On the other hand, the national mortgage bankers group predicts mortgage interest rates will drift slowly higher next year, leading to significant declines in refinance activity.

Above all, make sure a refinance is right for your situation.

Its a significant financial transaction, said Edward Achtner, an Oakland-based regional sales executive for Bank of America. If buying a home is the largest transaction a consumer embarks upon, a refinance is a close second. Do the research, evaluate the different options. Take your time and do not be pressured into making any decisions.

Editors note: This story was changed Aug. 29 to correct the length of the Muellers mortgage.

copy; Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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Finance minister faces backlash after lauding Netanyahu government for …

Finance Minster Yuval Steinitz whipped up a storm of criticism on Sunday inside the coalition and out after he said unemployment in Israel had fallen in the last three years.

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Oregon’s grade in finance: a solid C

In a recent rating of all 50 states by Barrons magazine, Oregon ranks 25th. If youre happy with a C from those who manage your money, then feel free to pat your state legislators and executives on the back. Otherwise, read on.

Barrons ranking was focused on debt, including pensions owed to state workers that has not yet been put aside. The states output (gross domestic product, or GDP) was $186 billion in 2011, and is projected to be $189 billion, or 1.8% more, this year. Our debt is just under 5% of our total output. 24 states have less than ours, and 25 have more.

The good news is that Oregon began to address state worker pension promises in 1996. No longer do we guarantee an 8% annual return on all invested pension funds. Even famed investor Warren Buffett projects less, 7.1%. That may not sound like much of a difference, but for one retiree earning a $50,000 annual pension from age 60 to age 90, it represents added state debt of $50,000, and there are over 32,000 state workers.

Remember, too, that a pension is a guaranteed monthly income, different from the 401(k) that workers in the private sector are likely to have. These plans guarantee only that you will receive your contributions, employee matches (if you have them) and your investment returns. No guarantee on the returns. Private workers are on our own.

The next consideration Barrons makes is our state bond rating, or the likelihood that the state will generate enough revenue (taxes) to pay back the money it borrows with interest. The rating is important because the riskier ratings agencies see the state, the higher the borrowing costs. Oregon is rated AA+, the same as US debt, one notch below AAA. Our borrowing costs are relatively low.

So, what should we expect from the public employees that we hire to run our state in order to pull us from the middle of the pack?

Oregon is employment is heavily dependent on one sector, manufacturing of durable goods. This is because its two largest Portland area employers are Nike and Intel. The problem with such a heavy concentration in one sector is that, in an economic downturn like the one in 2009, people can choose to stop wearing Nike shoes and upgrading their computers with the newest microprocessors. These businesses, unlike food, soap, razor blades, etc., are not absolute necessities that people will buy during hard times. Consequently, the state of Oregon, particularly Portland where these large employers are based, will do worse when the economy weakens.

Our legislators and executives have concentrated their efforts to attract new employers in the green energy space. While a laudable long term goal, this will not address the problem attracting a diverse employer base that will help the state withstand the exaggerated pain during recessions. And, the state has paid dearly for those green energy jobs.

Instead, our state managers should target and attract employers in more stable sectors with a combination of:

  • Investment in training an employee base who is ready to work and
  • Offering a business friendly environment, similar to that offered to green energy businesses.

They wont know what you want unless you tell them. Heres how to contact them.

kittyok@earthlink.net

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German finance minister: ECB not at risk of breaching mandate

DUBLIN (Reuters) – German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Friday that claims the European Central Bank risks breaching its mandate following signals that it may start buying government bonds were off the mark.

ECB President Mario Draghi vowed last month to do whatever it takes to save the euro, raising the prospect of buying the bonds of troubled euro states like Spain and Italy and came under withering criticism in Germany in the process, principally from governing council colleague Jens Weidmann.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced support last week for the Italians plans and Schaeuble said on Friday that he did not view them as a threat to the banks mandate of maintaining price stability.

It is claimed in some quarters the ECB is breaching its mandate; I dont see that, Schaeuble told the Irish Times in an interview in Berlin, when asked about Draghis crisis-fighting strategy.

After Merkel and French President Francois Hollande told Greece on Thursday that it should not expect leeway on its bailout agreement unless it sticks to tough reform targets, her right-hand man was similarly stern when asked about Athens bailout plan.

Schaeuble, who said on Thursday that granting Greece more time to meet its fiscal targets was not a solution to the problems, told the Irish newspaper that the Greek program would remain alive as long as it was the best solution for Greece and Europe.

The final goal is sustainable stable economic development in Europe. If we do things that overwhelm Germanys economic potential in the view of the markets, then Europe is weak as a whole, he said.

Schaeuble also reiterated that he was convinced the European Stability Mechanism met the standards of Germanys democratic system ahead of a ruling next month by the German constitutional court on complaints made to it about the euro zones permanent rescue fund.

He was lukewarm, however, about Irelands plans to improve the terms of its costly bank bailout after Dublins hopes were raised by an agreement of euro zone leaders – that was backed by Draghi – to examine proposals in October.

Naturally we want to help each other but I am not yet convinced by any means that some of the measures which are mentioned would not have the opposite effect. We will talk about this again, he said.

The decisive point is: we cannot do anything that generates new uncertainty on the financial markets and lose trust which Ireland is just at the point of winning back.

We will have to avoid generating a headline like ‘Aid program for Ireland topped up because then investors in California or Shanghai might not understand that this top-up is a reward for Ireland.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Iceland Dismisses Finance Minister Hardardottir in Consolidation

Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir dismissed Finance Minister Oddny Hardardottir in
a move designed to prepare the government for next year’s
parliamentary elections and reduce the number of ministries.

Hardardottir, 55, will be replaced by former Industry
Minister Katrin Juliusdottir, 37, on Oct. 1, according to a
statement on the website of Sigurdardottir’s Social Democratic
Alliance. The consolidation is the second since the government
took office in April 2009. The north Atlantic island’s next
parliamentary elections are in May.

The reduction of ministries to eight from 10 was approved
by parliament on May 11 and is set to take place on Sept. 1. A
new Industry and Innovation Ministry will replace the Ministry
of Industry, Energy and Tourism and the Ministry of Fisheries
and Agriculture. The duties of the Ministry of Economic and
Business Affairs will be divided between that new ministry and
the Ministry of Finance, which will be renamed the Ministry of
Finance and Economic Affairs. The Environment Ministry will be
renamed the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources.

With these changes “Johanna Sigurdardottir has managed
what no other government has managed, despite beautiful
promises, to reduce the number of ministries in one term by
four,” according to the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Omar Valdimarsson in Reykjavik at
valdimarsson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonas Bergman at
jbergman@bloomberg.net

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Finance, Budget departments’ comment on Sugar Bill awaited

Monday, August 27, 2012

THE comment from the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management on the proposed Sugarcane Act is being awaited so it can be tackled by the House Committee on Appropriations, a lawmaker said.

Representative Alfredo Benitez III, principal author, said the measure embodied in House Bill No. 6113 aims to provide the framework for the full development of the value potentials of the sugarcane and its by-products to make the industry competitive and sustainable when tariff on imported sugar is reduced to a nominal five percent by 2015.

Express your condolences to DILG Secretary Jesse Robredos family

Benitez said he is pushing for the final approval of the measure in the House of Representatives before the end of 2012.

“We are just waiting for the comment from the DBM and the DOF,” Benitez said in answer to queries from stakeholders in the sugar industry.

He said he also hopes that politics will not affect the approval of the bill, noting that the filing of the certificate of candidacy for the 2013 election is already scheduled for October 1-5 this year.

He confirmed that the Sugar Bill was recently approved by the House Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Negros Occidental 1st District Congressman Jules Ledesma.

He said minor amendments were made on the proposed bill. Benitez explained that with the committees approval, the proposed bill is now headed to the committee on appropriations chaired by Representative Joseph Emilio A. Abaya (1st District, Cavite).
He said he is optimistic that his bill will become a law before this year ends, saying majority of the members of Congress are supportive of his bill.

Senator Chiz Escudero has already filed the counterpart bill in the Senate and it has garnered the support of many senators, Benitez said.

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